Yesterday morning, the forecast was for a hot and humid day with a high of 90 degrees F. The water temp in the bay was 78 degrees F and the 20th Annual Great Chesapeake Bay swim was going to be the hottest one ever on record. Oh boy.
All the swimmers came into Sandy Point State Park, making their way toward registration. Two of my teammates and my friend Maura would be doing the swim for the first time.
Yesterday was my third.
We checked in and got our packets which had our timing chips for our ankles, our swim caps and race numbers.
Then they mark the race numbers on our arms and hands so if we die out there, they can figure out who we are and who to call with the bad news...Of course, we've already signed a waiver that says if we die, no one is responsible but our own stupid selves.
There were 10 of us from the Central Maryland YMCA Masters doing the swim this year.
It's always great to have a team of people to share tips and knowledge about the race. Luckily, we found a bit of shady real estate along with the 660 other swimmers...all huddled under the 12 trees of "forest" near the beach.
There are two bridges that span the 4.4 mile crossing of the Chesapeake Bay.
The goal is to swim from the beach, between the two bridges and stay there for the majority of the race. If, at any point, you pass underneath either of the two bridges, you are disqualified and the Coast Guard picks you up. No arguments. No second chances.
Toward the end of the swim, we cross back under the far bridge and swim to a beach on the opposite shore. It's a fairly straightforward swim except for the current in the big main channel. That's the tough part.
Luckily we have a coach to give us strategies for swimming the course and to answer any questions.
This is when the first-timers are thinking..."Now, why am I doing this?" I remember having that same thought.
So I came prepared with just the right antidote to that nervous anxiety. Miracle Bubbles.
And War Paint. War Paint make you feel stronger and tougher and faster....
Next, we put on Body Glide...it's used to protect the skin from abrasion from the wetsuit after swimming for multiple hours. Can you tell which part of Maura's body typically gets sore from her wetsuit?
And my BNF (blogging needle friend), Judy had sent me a four-leaf clover that she had found for good luck. Thank you Judy! I stuck it in my swim cap and it helped me many times along my way...
And our friend Laurie was there to cheer us on and help us to get into our rubber sausage casings.
In fact, because of the high air and water temperatures this day, the big decision was whether or not to wear a wetsuit.
Many swimmers chose not to.
Though we had never experienced this warm of a race day, neither one of us felt comfortable not wearing it -- it gives a lot of buoyancy to your body making you glide more easily through the water.
It does, however, make you hot. After all, it's meant to be worn in cold water conditions... So we drank a lot of water, put on our wetsuits, kissed our friends and family, and headed out...
To the beach...
And the starting line...
Where we took sight of the buoys we would have to swim through to get in between the two bridges.
And we were off.
And we left behind all the advice...all our friends...our water...our sunscreen...
For the next 2.5 to 3.5 hours, it's just a long swim. And you have no idea how well your friends are doing until it's all over.
For me, it was by far the hardest of my three swims.
I'm not sure exactly why.
Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was because I'm heavier and less in shape than I was two years ago, or maybe it was the current in the Big Bad Channel that did me in.
The Big Bad Channel almost kicked my butt. As I started across, I was already dangerously close to the South span and the current was threatening to push me under the far bridge which would disqualify me. So I swam harder than I've had to swim before...in a horizontal direction, trying to fight the current and stay moving forward.
By the time I got through there, I was exhausted. And I wasn't even halfway. I felt nauseous and spent and I still had a loooong way to go.
So I closed my eyes...and drew energy from all your well wishes...from the shamrock in my cap...and from this man who I knew was waiting for me on the opposite shore.
He was also my camera man. Didn't he do a good job?
Anyway, I kept wondering if I could actually pass out while swimming? And how long would it take the Coast Guard to pick me up if I did? Then I put those thoughts out of my head and kept going...telling myself I couldn't faint until I got to Jimmy. Funny, the thoughts that come to you in the middle of torture.
Meanwhile, Maura won her fight in the Big Bad Channel and was having an awesome swim.
This is what you look like when you come out of the water feeling awesome!
And this is what you look like when you come out of the water, looking for your husband and ready to pass out...
It's not pretty, I know.
Not all days can be good ones. And not all posts can be pretty.
But I guess, when it's all said and done, of the three Bay swims I've done, I think I learned the most from this one.
- I learned that next race I need to be in much better shape so that I can choose not to wear a wetsuit if it's too hot.
- I learned that I need to be in much better shape period.
- I learned that I shouldn't get lackadaisical about my race strategy or my training just because I've done a race before. I think I was a little too laid back this time...
- I learned that I really loved my husband and he was really who I wanted to see when I was feeling so bad. The only other time I felt that way was when I was in labor having Jack.
- I learned that having four leaf clovers in your swim cap, and emails and cards from your friends really do work when you need them to...
- I learned that it's not really about whether or not it was a good swim or a bad swim...what it's really about is getting off the couch, putting on your war paint, and just showing up.
- I learned that having friends who have awesome days helps to wipe out my bad ones. And, last but not least...
- I learned that War Paint works.
Today, the pain and torture of yesterday's swim is beginning to fade...and good memories are surfacing, erasing the bad. Just like in childbirth.
I guess that means I'm going to do it again.
Tomorrow, I'm back to stitching. Notwithstanding two sore arms and shoulders.
Thanks to everyone who wished me luck. I used it!